Best Kept Secrets of the Melbourne Brunch Scene

By Ella Burton-Taylor

When it comes to brunching in Melbourne, we all have our go-to places. Hopefully this list may allow you to branch (brunch) out a little…

Short Round
731 High Street, Thornbury
Vibes: Quiet and sunny.
Food: Short Round are great at putting twists on the classics (i.e. my smashed avocado came with polenta). As a result, dishes can be pretty luxe and rich.
Set-up: Open plan, wooden floorboards and exposed-brick. It used to be a house, so the entrance has a classic stained-glass window above the front-door. And yes, there is Aesop soap in the bathroom.
Location: Thornbury is the next big thing, so get on it before it makes Instagram feeds.

Cibi Minanoie
33 Peel Street, Collingwood
Vibes: Japanese, calm and homey (the word mina-no-ie translates into ‘Everyone’s Home’).
Food: Not your standard smashed avocado. Anyone who has been to Japan will appreciate their home-style Japanese breakfast and selection of green teas. They also have an impressive range of Japanese homewares to browse through.
Set-up: The café is in a warehouse with very high ceilings, white walls and indoor plants. Wooden tables are plenty.
Location: Well within the hipster zone.

150 Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra
Vibes: Active-wear and loud noises.
Food: Pretty stock-standard brekkie dishes, but they do have good specials.
Set-up: Kanteen is one of those kiosk-style cafés – an indoor/outdoor hybrid. It’s casual. There are also lots of children and pets running around so be warned.
Location: The location definitely trumps any aversions to active-wear. Located right along the Yarra River, it is an ideal location for a brunch stop-off whilst on a walk with a dog or human.

Tre Bicchieri
623 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
Vibes: Italian, cozy and surrounded by lots of trees.
Food: Surprisingly not that Italian. My recommendation is the zucchini fritters with chilli.
Set-up: Definitely the smallest of the cafés described. At the window there are amazing red leather arm chairs. A retro-style bar sits in the middle. Lots of Italian-inspired photographs and posters towards the back.
Location: On Rathdowne St. Ride a bike there and you will feel very cool.

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The Trouble With Democracy

By Jenny Keene

I recognise the Donald Trump trope is getting old. Finding him less and less funny and more and more embarrassing, I think the time has come to wallow in a well of inconsolability at the state of American politics.

As one of a few token Americans, I should fully admit my biases upfront. My first job out of undergrad was as a 2008 field organiser for the Virginia Democratic Party. Although I wasn’t fully enamoured with the ‘Hope and Change’ rhetoric, I definitely drank the Kool-Aid along with every other Senate intern and politics nerd: the frisson of democracy-at-work is addictive.

Yet the trouble with democracy, as an excellent human rights professor once said, is that someone is always going to lose. Democracy shines when a state’s foundations are firm. It flounders when the ‘voice of the people’ is fragmented and hostile.

The U.S. hasn’t faced such extreme rhetoric since perhaps Alabama Governor George Wallace, famed for his 1963 speech declaring ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.’ Trump’s bashing on minorities, ignorance of the Geneva Conventions, and delayed refusal of disavowing the support of the Ku Klux Klan—all the things most politicos thought would bring him down—have either been cheered or casually ignored by his supporters. And regardless of whether he loses the primary, the hateful things Trump has said now cannot be unsaid. They’ve found support in pockets of the disaffected, and now that the disaffected have a voice, those people are unlikely to go quietly into the night.

Giving a voice to the disaffected is crucially important. But the 2016 election cycle suggests that those disaffected voices are more anxious than they are empowered. Real Clear Politics dubbed 2016 the ‘Year of the Insecure Voter,’ and I’m inclined to agree. A January 2016 Rasmussen poll found that 50% of Americans believe race relations in the U.S. are getting worse. That’s up from 30% only two years ago. Likewise, a December 2015 poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove found that the electorate’s highest concern is ‘National Security/Terrorism’ at 29%—nearly two times higher than the ‘Jobs and the Economy,’ ranking at 15%. We are more distrusting of our ‘neighbour’ than ever in recent history; the campaigns of this election cycle on serve to encourage that.

No doubt contributing to this insecurity is congressional infighting, which has led to the second lowest ever Gallup Congressional approval rating of 11%. This is only two points higher than the lowest rating of 9% in 2013—shortly after the U.S. Government actually shutdown for intransigency over a spending bill. Moreover, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell flatly dismissed considering President Obama’s Supreme Court replacement for Justice Scalia, regardless of who wins the Presidency. And a January 2016 poll by CNN/ORC International found that 67% of Americans were in favour of President Obama’s 2016 Executive Orders on gun control—including 51% of Republicans—yet no further Congressional action has been taken. In short, the American voter has little to lose in supporting the outsiders and little to save if the results provide us with a-typical or ill-prepared leaders.

Unlike other liberals (read: U.S. political lefties), I hoped the evolution of the Tea Party would have prevented this sad state of affairs. Having been in the UK during their 2010 general election, I was wooed by the Monster Raving Looneys Parties, the Pirate Parties, and even the UKIPs that exist in a potentially-multi-partied-system. (Here, I’m so pleased to know of the Motoring Enthusiasts. Sign me up.) A space for recognition, and frankly a safety valve for the further-afields, smaller parties seemed to be a way to have our cake and eat it too. In 2014, my congressional district orchestrated the unexpected primary defeat of Republican Eric Cantor—then the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives—by an unknown college professor backed by the Tea Party. Although I doubt my Representative actually represents my views, I still felt a twinge of pride that democracy had spoken.

But the Tea Party never fully separated from the Republicans and further right views—views that found an outlet in the Tea Party—grew louder and louder. We remain a staunchly two-party system with few choices to assuage our idiosyncratic anxieties. And with a raft of insecurities and a deaf-ear from supposedly more moderate politicians, it shouldn’t be a wonder we’re in the position we are.

Democracy depends on moderation. It depends on free speech but also toleration. It depends on a proactive electorate, but an electorate who will accept the results win or lose. And it depends on responsive elected officials, but elected officials who will put the nation’s unity and fair operation above the fervour necessary to get them elected.

Regardless of who wins the White House in November, I’m not sure that’s what we’ll see.


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Book Review: Middlemarch by George Elliot

By Tam Charlwood

Limited to one book on my travels, I bought the largest book I could find: Middlemarch. Initially I was unenthusiastic, yet I quickly fell in love. Middlemarch is an intense novel with a glorious range of characters. They are the driving force of the book; Eliot masterfully constructs and deconstructs them. It would be a disservice to George Eliot to say that her characters are perfectly rendered. The characters in Middlemarch are not bound to the realm of paper and ink, instead they are fully realised and flawed human beings (although critics seem to have it out for Will Ladislaw).

Eliot’s realism is a shining beacon of the style. Middlemarch is a historical novel, an intellectual novel, a romance novel, even a business novel! There is such breadth and depth, that each page seems to offer insight into society of the 1800s and society today. It is hard to say precisely what Middlemarch is about, since it is a meander through a country town with keen insights into humanity at large and small. Each page provides understanding into people, relationships, and society.

Middlemarch has enriched my life – returning poor from travel, I recalled Lydgate’s financial difficulties; learning about Australia’s depressing detention centres, I keenly felt Dorothea’s need to do good “business”; and considering my path as a graduate, I was cautioned by Casaubon’s vain efforts.

For a time-poor law student, Middlemarch is a commitment. Yet as you read, you’ll forget about your other commitments. Whenever I read a book, I fold the bottom corners of pages that resonate with me for their prose or concepts. My Middlemarch has most of the lower page corners folded. Do not be daunted by the size of Middlemarch. Provided you exert some effort at the start, you will be amply awarded. Middlemarch will be a lifelong friend to you.

“Character is not cut in marble – it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become diseased as our bodies do.” Dorothea responds, “then it may be rescued and healed.”

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The Unbearable Lightness of Kanye

By JJ Kim

The idea of Kanye West is a mysterious one. With 4 critically acclaimed albums, 21 Grammy awards, 3 albums on Rollings Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by his early 30’s, twice listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world, and over 32 million album sales and 100 million digital downloads worldwide, he is undoubtedly one of the most important artists of our generation, if not THE most important artist of our generation. But as a wise fictional comic-book uncle once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” By 2014, West had released the grandiose succession of 3 revolutionary solo albums: (1) ’808s & Heartbreak’ (the influence of which, admittedly, was not recognised until 7 years after its release); (2) ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’; and (3) ‘Yeezus’. For the better half of 2015, West had the world on their knees waiting for his next masterpiece, the next disc of Kanye West songs that would change the game as its predecessors had done so with unstoppable force.

On 14 February 2016, West dropped the mess that is The Life of Pablo: an album that went against the grain as his last 3 efforts had done before, but in a completely different way. 808’s, Twisted Fantasy, and Yeezus had all broke the world artistically with their challenging sounds; Pablo broke it with its challenge to a concept — the concept of a complete cohesive album, the absolute opposite of what was achieved in West’s magnum opus Twisted Fantasy. This in itself has been dubbed the determinative factor in both its success and its failure by the somewhat divided criticism the album has received. Sonically, however, the album at its very core leaves something to be desired. It feels forced, and at the same time effortless, but not in a good way. Any trace of the lyricism in ‘College Dropout’ and ‘Late Registration’, the perfectly-executed meticulousness of Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus, and the flourish of ‘Graduation’ and 808s was nowhere to be found. The child-like wordplay in ‘Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1’ and ‘Freestyle 4’, the unedited use of Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ in ‘Pt. 2’, and even the usurpation of the ‘Jumpman’ flow in ‘Facts’ all point towards a laziness that was never present in his previous albums. The fact that West wrote his contribution to ‘No More Parties in LA’ on a flight to Italy for his clothing line’s (YEEZY) season 3 fitting the day before it was meant to be released is perhaps the case in point: West did not care about the music. He certainly cared about the album itself, but he lost sight (or perhaps more appropriately, sound) of its essence.

But why is this? What happened to the genius that we all invested the hopes and dreams of the next 5 years of music into? What happened to the self-proclaimed “Warhol”, “Jimi Hendrix”, “the Steve Jobs of internet”, “the Michael Jordan of music”, “the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron and Miles Davis”, the “Shakespeare in the flesh” that without fail changed the game time and time again and paved the way for artists both young and old to take and eventually make their own?

He smiled.

On 15 June 2013, North West was born to West and influential celebrity Kim Kardashian, who were married on 24 May 2014 in Florence, Italy. For the first time in a very long time, West didn’t feel alone in the world.

The loss of his mother, whom he was very close with, in 2007 and his break-up with long-term girlfriend Amber Rose in 2010 had led West into a state of disarray, a state of true solitude that inevitably allowed him to become the monolith that he is today. This very state set the conditions for a genuine introspection into the deepest caverns of his heart, which transformed the emotions brewing from the struggle to prove himself to the world in Dropout and Registration into raw sadness, a sadness that birthed the platform for world famous artists like Drake and The Weeknd to build upon: 808s. Dripping in melancholy and AutoTune, West simultaneously spilled his broken heart into the hands of the world and rewrote the rules of hip hop at the same time with his incredibly unique mixture of European synthpop and tribal rhythms through the sounds of a Roland TR-808. However, much like the synths behind his voice, the album’s effect and influence was delayed as it faced a general disappointment from critics. They called it “irritating”, “weak”, “a listless, bleary trudge”… and thus planted the seeds within West that led to the perfectionism of Twisted Fantasy.

In 2009, West went into “self-imposed exile” in Hawaii, following a period of public controversy amid an overworked mental state, and spent over $3 million to create what would eventually become one of the greatest albums of all time. West’s frustration with the reception of 808s led him to work through the night and nap in the studio, and work in sessions with over 30 heavyweight artists to weigh in and contribute to the project. What followed was a piece of art with a maximalist aesthetic and opulent production quality; upon release, the whole world could not deny that West had created a masterpiece.

Yet, the criticism continued. Despite having made one of the greatest pieces of music in the last two decades, followed by the incredibly successful stadium concept collaboration with long-time friend Jay-Z ‘Watch The Throne’, public media continued to berate West for his public statements and arrogance. It was evident that any sliver of humility was non-existent within West, but by stretching empathy to its furtherest degree, one could say it was understandable considering the worldwide acclaim he received for Twisted Fantasy in the face of all the hate from both critics and the media alike during his 808s phase. He showed them he was the artistic genius he claimed to be but was still one of the most detested human beings on camera. This sparked a fundamental change in West, the attitude that he would fight fire with fire. So came forth his next great work: Yeezus.

Dubbed his most experimental and sonically abrasive work, Yeezus came during a time where West sought to “undermine the commercial”, a time where West stated that he had no desire to be on the radio anymore. This saw him in the studio with great focus, setting parameters regarding sound and style including the erasing of anything deemed too melodic or more in line with his previous material. The stripped-down minimal direction that West took his album in was a statement to the world: he was creating ‘anti-music’, a sound that tried to be abrasive, interruptive, hostile, and intentionally off-putting… it succeeded. It succeeded with rave reviews of a work that didn’t even have an album cover, with even rock legend Lou Reed claiming that “no one’s near doing what [West]’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.” West had made a risk-filled drastic departure from his previous sound and it worked, even though he didn’t care whether it would or not. It worked because within the music was something so primal, so visceral that he could communicate so well because he had been feeling it for so long throughout the better half of his career: pure unadulterated rage.

But what next? What was West to do when he had proven to the world that he was the genius he proclaimed to be, whether he cared about its opinion or not? He became bored. He lost interest in constantly succeeding in an industry that craved him one album after the next. He lost interest in sitting on this throne atop of the world of music because the struggle was the reason he thrived in it from the very beginning. And what was he to do with all this money?! He turned his efforts to fashion, a love he had since early in his career, which gave rise to his collaboration with Adidas: Yeezy Season. Speaking of love, West at this point now had his very own family, with Kardashian as his partner and a daughter he clearly shows an incredible affection for. This could be found in his collaboration single with Paul McCartney ‘Only One’, which was dedicated as a tribute to North. In addition to this, West’s aggressive attitude had changed into one that wished for the betterment of the world so that his daughter could be happy, so that she would not have to face the racial struggle West had and still has as an African-American. In almost every aspect of his life, West had no reason to be sad or angry: he was a god of music, he was the father of his own family, and despite initial pushback Yeezy Season had gained acclaim in both the fashion world and the general public.

Life was good, too good, which is what led to the complacent downfall of what made West so revered in the first place: his music.

Without the sheer sorrow of 808s, the earnest desire of Twisted Fantasy, and the anger of Yeezus, West went back into the studio almost purely out of obligation to his contract with Def Jam Recordings and created his poorest (literally) album to date: The Life of Pablo. The recording process of Pablo was not as focused as his previous efforts and seemed as though West was taking on the role of a tired conductor, where the orchestra of recording artists and producers around him knew the old formula of pushing boundaries and West was merely going through the motions of creating another album. Perhaps this would have been justified if he were having fun creating Pablo, but this was not likely the case as he was in and out of working on his clothing line at the same time. The incident with ‘No More Parties’ made the album process appear to be a burden on what West was really invested in at the time. And so came a higher number of ghostwriters, rather than collaborators, on the album (there were even ghostwriters for ‘Freestyle 4’! It’s meant to be a freestyle!) It was a lazy effort that West had no care for. By no means was the album bad, but in comparison to the rest of his work it stood head shoulders knees and toes below the rest.

Trumpets sounded on opening track “Ultralight Beam”, heralding the end of West’s reign as a musician, the end of the West we knew and loved and hated all at the same time. One can only hope that his next rush effort ‘Turbo Grafx ’16’ can compensate.


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